“It is hard to find drinking water, some of the chairs are broken, and many pensioners use the benches they sit on as desks to fill up forms,” says an 80-year-old pensioner. “For people who cannot read or write, it is even more difficult, as there is no one to guide them on how to fill up the required forms. If they go to the staff for assistance, then the work gets stalled to answer questions,” he adds.
Lack of basic facilities at the Pension Pay Office on College Road has added to the woes of the elderly. In an office that over 100 pensioners visit on an average day, rickety benches, broken chairs and foul-smelling toilets make the wait intolerable. Add to this a shortage of manpower because of which pensioners has to endure long waits.
N.Thillaiammal (68), resident of Gandhi Nagar in Ayanavaram, waited for two hours to get some information about her pension.
“When I went to the bank, I was informed that my pension money has not been deposited. I did not know why and came here to find out. Officials here say they had deposited extra money in my account by mistake, and had to deduct the additional amount,” she says. Though the staff at the Pension Pay Office told her that they had sent her a letter in this regard, Ms. Thillaiammal had not received one. The biggest issue is that the office is understaffed says S.M. Chellaswamy, General Secretary, Tamil Nadu Elders Welfare Association.
“No new recruitments are made after people retire from the department,” he says. Those who frequent the office note that the toilets have to be shared by both, the visitors and the staff of the office. On days when there is a power cut in the locality, the senior citizens are forced to take the winding, lone flight of stairs.
Implementation of e-pensions such that processing and payment is done online has made the process faster, says K.Manivasan, Commissioner, Department of Treasuries and Accounts which manages the records of over 40,000 pensioners registered with the Pension Pay Office.
“Space is a problem as this is not our own building. We are thinking of possibilities of moving to a more spacious area,” he says. As for facilities, everything including drinking water and lift services are provided, he adds.
Eighty one-year-old N. Stephens, who was leaning on a parked car to write his pension letter, points to another requirement.
“I have to provide copies of some of the documents and there is only one photocopy machine in a shop nearby. But the shop also sells food and beverages so we have to wait for the copies to be made,” he says.